A Conversation for Down where the Southern Cross the Dog: The Beginnings of the Blues

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 1


Good morning from South Carolina,

I'm enjoying reading the article on the Blues, which I found when I Googled "where the southern cross the dog."

I don't mean to start any sort of disruption here and, by way of disclosure, I'm white (as a sheet), part Cajun, part Irish (since middle 1800s), and a big dose of Choctaw Indian from central Louisiana. I have no degrees, no papers or theories to defend, etc., but simply have an interest in the origins of all music forms, with particular interest in forms of American Folk music... with emphasis on the Blues.

Most of my Blues "education" comes from years of listening. I can remember listening to music as far back as 1958, but clarity of memory came in 1959 with the death of Buddy Holly.

Okay, here's the thing:

from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1095248

From these roots they brought percussion and the idea of 'call and response' singing


I may have missed something here, but it seems to indicate the Blues started in Africa. Perhaps the writer means, "The Blues STORY starts in Africa," but I've never heard or read anything that suggests anything remotely resembling the Blues was brought over by slaves. They did, however, invent it after they got here. The "starts in Africa" phrase speaks trifles while ignoring volumes, and is analogous to saying, "J.S. Bach's music began in the Mesopotamian valley." Well, in a way, it did; but only because civilization started there.

I think the questions are, "What musical concepts DID the slaves bring to North America?" and also, "Where did the OTHER building blocks come from?"

My research (also not tainted by dogma) is not exhaustive, but whose is? It heavily suggests that the slaves probably brought the rhythm with them, and the rest they picked up after they got here. So, what about the two most compelling aspects of the Blues; call-and-response and the "wrong" notes? Glad you asked.

Look no farther than ...Scotland!

I explained my views to a fellow "amateur student of American folk culture," and he was sufficiently enthralled so as to start his own research. The fact that he is of Scottish descent might’ve been compelling to him! Anyway, he has just told me that Scottish Presbyterians (!) have a component to their service called, "Presenting the line" that is call-and-response, pure and simple. And you can bet they've been doing it a long time, too. One Willie Ruff (black American Jazz musician and historian) once witnessed "presenting the line" in a Scottish Presbyterian service and says he was moved to tears when he realized what it meant. He’d found his “missing link” to the Blues and Jazz.

Okay, but then, how did the slaves get it?

I think call-and-response spread to the cotton fields because the slaves often went to church with their masters, and it was common for them to sit in the balcony. And remember, it would only take ONE slave hearing this ONE TIME, to start a movement... but we had THOUSANDS of slaves attending church, and their collective ears became full of this moving and compelling Presbyterian ritual. I'm betting the slaves picked up the call-and-response from there. All through the south (of what is now USA), the Presbyterian services were pervasive, and the slave's attendance common. But what of the "wrong notes" (flatted 3rds, 5ths, 7ths, etc.)? Where would such a important part of the Blues have gotten its foot in the door of our musical fabric? Look no farther than, ...Scottish folk music.

Listen to Robert Burns's "My Lagan Love," and then consider when it was written. "MLL" is, by no means, alone in its being a Scottish folk song with Blues ties, but I use it merely as an example to open the door.

The Appalachian folk music (that I know of) is not only "influenced" by Scottish lore, but seems to be a logical extension of it, in the same way that my southern accent (full of diphthongs and contractions) was not "invented" by us southerners, but rather, appears to me to be a directly related to the British "Cockney" accent, which surely was common among the Brits who came here outside the wealthy society-types.

Everything comes from somewhere.

James Ray Crenshaw
[email protected]

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 2


Hi and welcome to h2g2. smiley - smiley

You might get more responses to this if you post it at the bottom of the entry itself. This forum isn't really for this sort of thing, I'm afraid.

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 3

RFJS__ - trying to write an unreadable book, finding proofreading tricky

Note 'might'; it might also turn out that that Entry has no subscribers to notice. However, yes, that would be the appropriate forum.

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 4


Good point!

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 5


Should be still inhabited... If not, you should be able to get hold of the author easily enough - and he'll be happy to talk your ear off about the Blues...

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 6

Blues Shark - For people who like this sort of thing, then this is just the sort of thing they'll like

It is still iunhabited and I merely found this by lurking, which is a shame.

Someone with more savvy than me want to ask TPTB to move it to the entry?

Geronimo - I'll take some time to consider in the meantime, though I ma on holiday for 3 weeks from this weekend, so don't expect a swift response! My initial reaction is that yes, it's very plausible, though I would point out that the tradition of music in and around Mali, as typified by Ali Farke Toure and Tinawerien bears a striking resemblance to *certain* forms of delta blues, though the movement of musical ideas may have been both ways.

I'd like to see this added to the threads on the piece because it's interesting, infomative and the sort of thing that I feel adds to what I did, which was neither intended to be dogmatic nor exhaustive (I mean, I only had time and space to mention one of thre three Johnsons, and they all deserve a mention in one way or another...).smiley - ok.

smiley - shark

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 7


I've asked for it to be moved Blues...

Sorry, should have given you a kick when I saw this yesterday.

smiley - cheers

Origins Of The Blues...

Post 8

Blues Shark - For people who like this sort of thing, then this is just the sort of thing they'll like

No biggie, fella. smiley - ok

smiley - shark

Thread Moved

Post 9

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